This is a guest post written by Michelle Hovestadt of www.wickedcooldeals.com. We met at a media event and hit it off (you know, moms trying to pinch pennies) If you don’t know about her website, check it out. She has great information on saving money and getting the best deals around.
10 Ways to Save When Dining Out
When tough economic times hit, one of the first things we tend to cut back on is dining out. This is so unfortunate because dining out with your spouse, significant other or entire family can be such a treat! No cooking, no dishes – it’s just great. There are ways to have your cake and eat it too (pardon the pun!). Here are some ways you can save when eating out, along with some Wicked Cool restaurant Deals!
1. Purchase discount certificates at Restaurant.com. Restaurant.com can be one of the best ways to save money when dining out. Simply log on and search either by restaurant or zip code. There are a surprisingly large number of restaurants that participate. You can typically purchase a $25 certificate for $10, or a $10 certificate for $3. However (and this is the good part!), there are often promo codes you can use to get the certificates even cheaper – often 50%, 60%, even 70% off the regular price. I recently had such fun using a $25 certificate I purchased for just $3. A friend and I went out to dinner on a Thursday night. We had cocktails and a very nice dinner and the bill was about $50. I used my $25 certificate, bringing the price down to just about $25!
2. Sign up online at your favorite restaurants. Registering with restaurants online can be a great way to save money. When you sign up, the restaurant will often send you coupons and other promotional deals to save money on your next visit. I’ve registered with Applebees, Red Lobster, Fridays, Unos, and Johnny Rockets and they have all sent me discount coupons. T.G.I Friday’s just sent me a buy-one-get-one free entree coupon! And Johnny Rockets sent me a coupon for a free shake with any sandwich purchase! And, a couple of weeks ago Unos sent me a coupon for a FREE steak dinner.
3. Ask for restaurant gift cards. My parents, siblings and friends are always asking us what we want for birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. Don’t be shy – ask for a gift certificate to your favorite restaurant! Do you really want another sweater? Gift certificates can be great gifts even for children. My kids love going out to dinner – its’ a special treat. And they certainly don’t need any more toys!
4. Go out to lunch instead of dinner. Can’t afford dinner? Then simply go out for lunch! You often get the same menu, perhaps just a smaller portion. And, lunch can be a great “date” with your spouse or a pick-me-up with a friend or family member.
5. Have drinks and appetizers. Rather than indulge in a big entree, head out to your favorite restaurant for drinks and appetizers instead. This is another way to get enjoy some great food and time away from the kids.
6. Look for restaurants where kids eat free. Lots of restaurants offer “kids eat free” nights. You can simply Google your town’s name plus “kids free meals,” and you may be surprised at what comes up! Check out these sites for more info on how kids can eat for free: Kids Eat 4 Free, MyKidsEatFree, and Coupon Diva’s Kids Eat Free page.
7. Skip drinks and dessert. Cocktails, other drinks and dessert can really tack dollars onto your bill. If you are really craving something sweet, have a special dessert at home. When dining out with friends, something I do is have a special dessert, coffee and after dinner drinks waiting at my house after. There are also some great restaurants that allow you to bring your own wine or beer.
8. Plan where you are going. The lack of a plan always gets you in trouble! I recall a few times where we waited too long, the kids were starving and we stopped at the first place we saw. Boy, we paid for those mistakes! The food was lousy, the service was awful and we paid 3 times the price.
9. Look for discount coupons in your local paper or online. Restaurant chains like Uno, Friendly’s and Applebee’s will often place discount coupon offers in the local, often Sunday, paper. The phone book is another place where you might find a discount coupon. And, you can do a simple search online to see if there are any current coupons for your favorite restaurants. Just search by restaurant name and “coupon” or “discount” or “promo code.”
10. Buy an Entertainment Book. Although you do have to purchase these books (often $15-$20), they are chock-full of discount restaurant coupons. This is a good option if you are someone who really enjoys eating out often. An entertainment book also makes a great gift!
So don’t give up eating out because you are cutting down on expenses. You just need to be a little creative, thrifty and flexible!
Michelle is a marketing consultant and strategist and current publisher of http://www.wickedcooldeals.com, a website dedicated to providing money saving coupons, tips and strategies. Michelle is also a wife and mother of 4 young children living in Woodstock, Connecticut.